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on 11 November 2016
Superb concepts and beautifully shot.
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on 3 November 2014
The Artificial Eye DVD is cropped from 16:9 to 4:3, so you loose part of the Picture. The movie itself is 5 stars, but this particular Artificial Eye DVD is just 1 star.
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on 29 August 2014
This is an Interesting film and deserves better but the encode presented here is sub standard. The picture has visible scanning lines throughout.
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on 14 March 2018
excellent
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on 12 May 2014
Its definitely thoughtful. Its beautiful. It takes me a bit of discipline to stick with something that is so subtle.. but I loved its quality.
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on 10 October 2014
Stay away from this DVD. The picture quality looks like it's in 240p.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 May 2008
This was Tarkovsky's seventh and final full-length work for the cinema; he died of cancer shortly after its completion. This thought-provoking 142-minute film tells the story of two days spent at the country home of actor-writer Alexander (played by Erland Josephson - Domenico in Tarkovsky's `Nostalgia') on the Swedish island of Gotland (the final home, incidentally, of Ingmar Bergman). The plot can be simply told.

Here Alexander lives with his young son and beautiful teenage daughter Marta (Filippa Franzen), and here he holds a small party to celebrate his birthday. His ex-wife Adelaide (Susan Fleetwood) and her new husband Victor (Sven Vollter) arrive, as does neighbour Otto (Allan Edwall - you may remember him from Bergman's `Fanny & Alexander'), who happens to be a retired teacher, is now the district postman, and all his life has collected facts about unexplained phenomena. (The quote at the head of this review is Otto's as he gives Alexander an antique map of Europe as his birthday present.) Also present is the maid Julia (Valerie Mairesse) and the enigmatic servant Maria (Gudrun Gisladottir), from Iceland. Her naming is significant, and Otto calls her a witch, "in the best sense".

Over these two days an apocalypse occurs (nuclear war is hinted) and Alexander suffers a spiritual crisis, making a vow to a God he long ceased to recognise, sacrificing for his son's sake the pleasures of his life if only things could go back to how they were before: "I will give thee all I have. I'll give up my family whom I love; I'll destroy my home; and give up Little Man [his son]. I'll be mute and never speak another word to anyone. I'll relinquish everything that binds me to life, if only thou dost restore everything as it was before, as it was this morning and yesterday."

I will not reveal the method of how he defies events - the psychically-sensitive Otto is the trigger and means - but when indeed time is reversed to life before the apocalypse, Alexander feels compelled to fulfil his vow in a very dramatic way. And that's the plot!!

But, of course, however sparse the plot of a Tarkovsky film may appear, the underlying aesthetic and philosophical issues provide a feast for the senses and the mind. Signature Tarkovsky stylistic tropes appear from the very beginning. Indeed, a long ten-minute tracking-shot opens the film. There are mirror shots; there are shots where vertical features such as tree trunks split the scene; there are switches from the colour of the delightful rural backwater that is Alexander's home to black-and-white images of a city in chaos, with abandoned half-destroyed vehicles littering the street and water (always water!) seeping through the detritus. Moreover, throughout the whole period from the onset of the apocalypse to its subsequent erasure, the film is presented with its colour reduced, as if the camera had a grey filter.

There is the usual exquisite framing of scenes. (Bergman's cameraman Sven Nykvist was the Director of Photography.) We see the bleak coastline and a solitary tree; coins and clothes scattered in winter mud and snow; curtains billowing in the soft wind. We hear the sound of the sea and of seagulls, of dripping water, of floors creaking, of clocks ticking, and of missiles passing overhead. Significantly, we hear the sound of a wailing shepherdess in the distance that always bodes the passing of an event. (Otto claims she is "an angel passing by, who saw fit to touch me.") We experience the delight of Leonardo's `Adoration of the Magi' -, a picture all about gifts to the divine - although Otto calls it sinister and says he has always been terrified by Leonardo.

The boy is at the centre of the film, and yet he is the only one who does not speak. He is, admittedly, recuperating from an operation, but the doctor admits nevertheless that, "Sociability is a burden. Not all of us can bear it." Throughout the film the boy is referred to by his father significantly as `little man': is there an underlying Christian symbolism here? Alexander tells him, "How different things would be if only we could stop fearing death." He tells him, "Sometimes I say to myself, if every single day, at exactly the same stroke of the clock, one were to perform the same single act, like a ritual, unchanging, systematic, every day at the same time, the world would be changed." The precise philosophical relevance here is to the planting of a tree in inauspicious circumstances; but if the tree is watered and fed systematically, it will grow and the world would be changed.

Some scenes defy (for me) explanation (so far). For example, why does Maria talk straight to the camera and list "The plates, the candles, the wine"? Why does Alexander's naked daughter chase cockerels out of her room - or am I being naïve here? There is even an element of slapstick comedy (rare for Tarkovsky) as Alexander tries to surreptitiously make his escape from home on Otto's bicycle.

The collectors' edition of this DVD contains the usual image gallery, production notes and filmographies. In the notes, Tarkovsky says, "The sole means of returning to a normal relationship with life is to restore one's independence vis-à-vis the material things of life and reaffirm one's spiritual essence. In this film I deal with one of the aspects of this struggle for anyone living in society: the Christian concept of self-sacrifice ... though the episodes are filmed as if they were realistic, they are conceived as parables." The filmographies include written critiques from Sven Nykvist, Erland Josephson, and Susan Fleetwood about working with Tarkovsky.

The extras also include a 97-minute film made after Tarkovsky's death, a film which is, in effect, a `making of ...' feature, with occasional readings of some of Tarkovsky's written views. It has scenes which did not make the final cut and an interview with Tarkovsky's last wife, Larissa. But the main drama is kept until the end, when filming of the final scene of the torching of the house failed due to the camera jamming. Charges to set the tree and the car alight also failed. In the meantime, of course, the house burned to the ground. The team had to work hard to rebuild the set, but in a week all was ready for a successful shoot.
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on 17 May 2012
Kino have done an exceptional job with this Blu-ray release of Tarkovsky's final masterwork. The difference between this and their earlier DVD release is like night and day. This is the sort of production that Blu-ray was made for.

The inclusion of Michal Leszcylowski's very fine documentary, DIRECTED BY ANDREI TARKOVSKY, as a separate DVD is very welcome, but it's a pity that it too wasn't given the full 1080 treatment. No matter - the main feature has been sumptuously transferred in full 16:9 glory. This is a must-have disc for all Tarkovsky enthusiasts.
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on 7 October 2017
It's Tarkovsky.
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on 5 October 2016
This is the seventh and final of Artificial Eye’s complete Tarkovsky feature films on blu-ray for the Region B market (see also my reviews of Ivan’s Childhood, Andrei Rublev, Mirror, Solaris, Stalker & Nostalghia).

Extras include a 40-page booklet, as always very readable, but let me start, as promised in my last review, with an appraisal of Mary Wild’s ‘Andrei Tarkovsky’s Metaphysical Dream Zone’ which is a 7-part series, concluding on this release.

Subjecting Tarkovsky to a sort of Freudian analysis does lead to some fascinating insights and appreciation, though I suspect he himself would be somewhat bemused by the process. Ms Wild knows her subject, has clearly put in a lot of work on the project, and obviously has a real love of Tarkovsky’s films. Using various scenes from each of the seven films to present her views, the cumulative effect of the complete series produces a very interesting interpretation of the imagery, style and content of his work, which I personally found to be insightful and intriguing.

The big problem for me is Ms Wild’s narration. We get distractions: a somewhat hesitant delivery with pauses in odd places, the frequent use of irritating uplift (or up speak) and a clear example of the fact that authors are not always the best presenters of their own material. A written copy of her text may have helped, but I feel that anyone unfamiliar with Freud or psychoanalysis could quickly lose interest. A great pity as the material is, as I mentioned above, otherwise excellent.

Much clearer is the also included video essay ‘Poetic Harmony’, written and narrated by Lewis Bond, which I found to be heartfelt, informative, succinct, and a persuasive advert for those yet to discover Tarkovsky for themselves. You can preview it yourself on YouTube – find it under Channel Criswell.

But the real gem of the extras is the feature commentary by Layla Alexander-Garrett, who acted as Tarkovsky’s interpreter and assistant before and during filming (she is often glimpsed during the documentary ‘Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky’), and James King from Curzon putting pertinent questions. Full of fascinating eyewitness accounts of the filming, this is a valuable and unique addition to the series. I must add that the documentary ‘Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky’ included on the original AE DVD, would have made a welcome addition to this set, but it is available in many forms elsewhere, and is probably already owned by those who appreciate the Director.

Regarding the film itself, AE have served us very well indeed: comparing with my other blu-ray edition, (Kino Lorber), it is immediately apparent that the AE disc has real improvements to the image. This looks and feels much more like film, is free of Kino’s digital artefacts (for which the release was criticised) and so generally looks far better. I was often surprised at the extra and clear detail – digital sharpness sometimes gives the impression of improvement, but AE seem to have achieved this without compromising the real image quality. I’m not claiming that everything is perfect – the colour palette may not appeal to all tastes, but I find it pleasingly natural and much more satisfying than the Kino release or AE’s original DVD

Again, the bit-rate is high, a good 25% up on Kino’s, the sound is a more than adequate LPCM 2.0, and the sub-titles, which I think are almost identical to the original AE DVD, have a pleasingly literate feel.

As always, I mark on the film itself, and this has to be five stars, as I consider this the best edition currently available to the region B area. Together with the commentary, this is a ‘must have’ for any Tarkovsky film collector.

With this final release, we come to the end of a mixed set of new Tarkovsky editions. Yes, Stalker was disappointing and Nostalghia slightly less so, but generally we have a very welcome addition to what has been a rather neglected market, and I personally have thoroughly enjoyed a fresh look at seven cinema masterpieces. A big thank you to all who have voted my reviews as helpful.
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